Monday, September 2, 2013

Seminar: Hierarchies of Victimhood

Hierarchies of Victimhood:
The challenge of policy interventions aimed at alleviating the suffering of
victims of political violence

September 6, 2013 - 13:00 - 14:30

Location: Emthonjeni Centre, Seminar Room 19, East Campus, Wits University

Speaker(s): Professor Brandon Hamber


Using experience and knowledge gained from engagement and peacebuilding work with victims and survivors of political violence in Northern Ireland, as well as work in other contexts such as South Africa and the Basque Country, the paper will delve into the complex interplay between individual psychological processes and macro policy interventions aimed at assisting victims. The paper will highlight how suffering is politically framed and its relationship to national identity politics, and specifically how this can play itself out in terms of the politics surrounding victimhood and the resultant “competition” over suffering. The paper will highlight the limits of narrow mental health and medical orientated approaches to dealing with the needs of victims of political violence, and particularly how suffering can be “bureaucratised” in an attempt to deal with underlying politics of violence. As a case example specific attention will be given to the development of services to victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland.


Professor Brandon Hamber is Director of INCORE, an associate site of the United Nations University based at the University of Ulster. He is also a Mellon Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the School of Human and Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Prior to moving to Northern Ireland, he co-ordinated the Transition and Reconciliation Unit at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg. He trained in South Africa as a Clinical Psychologist at the University of the Witwatersrand. He has participated in peace initiatives, research projects and consultancies in Liberia, Mozambique, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Sierra Leone, among others. He has also been a Board member of the Khulumani Victim Support Group in South Africa. He has written extensively on transitional justice and the psychological implications of political violence. He has published some 40 book chapters and scientific journal articles, and is the author of Transforming Societies after Political Violence: Truth, Reconciliation, and Mental Health published by Springer in 2009, and later in 2011 in Spanish by Edicions Bellaterra.